Victoria records first overseas COVID case in new hotel quarantine system


Victoria has recorded its first COVID infection in hotel quarantine since the state again started accepting international flights.

The new case is an international passenger who arrived in Melbourne on a flight from Doha on Thursday.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV), the government unit that runs the hotel quarantine program, said the person was a man in his 40s.

He returned a positive test result yesterday and was transferred to a health hotel last night, CQV said.

Health hotels are quarantine hotels set up specifically to hold people who test positive to the virus.

No new COVID infections were recorded in the community yesterday, taking Victoria’s streak of no locally-acquired cases to 43 days.

The new case is the first one recorded in an overseas arrival since international flights started arriving in Melbourne again on Thursday.

The hotel quarantine program was shut down and overhauled in mid-February after the virus leaked out from a hotel and sparked a five-day lockdown.

Measures introduced in this overhaul include only rostering on hotel quarantine staff who have had at least the first COVID vaccine dose, and doubling the number of times arrivals get tested during their stay.

Previously, international arrivals were only tested for COVID twice during their two weeks in quarantine, but they will now be tested upon entering the program and on days four, 12 and 14.

Staff who work in the program are tested daily on shift, and encouraged to get tested on their days off.

More than 2,800 hotel quarantine staff members have also undergone N95 mask fit-testing and refresher training.

“CQV has strict IPC [infection prevention and control] processes and procedures, daily staff testing and workers are N95 mask fit test and trained and well prepared to manage positive cases,” a CQV spokesperson said in a statement.

Data on the Victorian government website says 104 overseas arrivals are expected to land in the state today.

Yesterday, 4,810 vaccine doses were administered in Victoria, taking the total of jabs delivered in the state to 142,130.

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UK confirms return of international travel through traffic light system



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed international travel will return accompanied by a risk-based traffic light system.

Mr Johnson said travellers from countries labelled ‘green’ will not be required to self-isolate but testing before and after flying will be needed.

Travellers returning from ‘red’ countries will be required to spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel and have regular COVID tests while those returning from ‘amber’ countries will have to self-isolate at home.

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UK no longer country ‘where system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities’, according to government-ordered race review | Politics News


The UK is no longer a country “where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”, a government-ordered review has said.

The Independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – which was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests – has published its 258-page report on inequality in Britain.

It explored ethnic and race disparities within education, employment, the criminal justice system and health.

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Race review: ‘There’s a lot of work ahead’

The commission said the UK “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries” although it cannot be considered “a post racial society”.

“Overt and outright racism persists in the UK”, particularly online, the report found, adding that it remained a “real force” and should be taken “seriously”.

But it also said: “Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.

“The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.”

The report argues there is an “increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of White discrimination”, which diverts attention away from other factors behind disparities of outcome.

The report makes a total of 24 recommendations to the government in order to give a “further burst of momentum” in the UK’s progress towards becoming a “successful multicultural community”, including:

• The phasing in of extended school days, starting with disadvantaged areas, as part of a “bold intervention” into education following the impact of the COVID pandemic on pupils
• Access to better quality careers advice in schools for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, funded by university outreach programmes
• The commissioning of further research into the drivers in “high performing pupils’ communities” to see what can be replicated to support all children to succeed
• For organisations “to move away from funding unconscious bias training” and the government “to work with a panel of academics and practitioners to develop resources and evidence-based approaches of what does work to advance fairness in the workplace”
• Ditching the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) acronym

One of its major conclusions is that issues around race and racism are becoming less important and, in some cases, are not a significant factor in explaining disparities.

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‘History must be acknowledged to make progress’

It found that children from many ethnic communities do at least as well or substantially better than white pupils in education.

This high achievement for children from certain ethnic communities is creating fairer and more diverse workplaces, the commission added.

Its report said some communities continue to be “haunted” by “historic cases” of racism, creating “deep mistrust” in the system which could prove a barrier to success.

But the commission claimed that there was a “reluctance to acknowledge that the UK had become open and fairer” from some groups.

It was also suggested that the well-meaning “idealism” of many young people who claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence.

The report acknowledged that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations had focused attention on race, but said progress could not be achieved by “cleaving to a fatalistic account that insists nothing has changed”.

It added: “We also have to ask whether a narrative that claims nothing has changed for the better, and that the dominant feature of our society is institutional racism and white privilege, will achieve anything beyond alienating the decent centre ground – a centre ground which is occupied by people of all races and ethnicities.

“We therefore cannot accept the accusatory tone of much of the current rhetoric on race, and the pessimism about what has been and what more can be achieved.”

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Bendigo park’s rainforest canopy cooling system saves bats during heatwave


As Australia baked through one of its worst summers on record last year, more than 200 endangered grey-headed flying foxes died during the January 2020 heatwave in Bendigo’s Rosalind Park.

“It was traumatic and certainly a wake-up call,” City of Greater Bendigo’s heritage gardens coordinator Orrin Hogan said.

Mr Hogan decided to find a way to make sure a similar mass tragedy did not occur again this year.

WWF-Australia’s threatened species and climate adaptation ecologist, Dr Kita Ashman (right), has helped to trial the cooling system in Rosalind Park.(

Supplied: WWF-Australia

)

Dependent on the time of year, up to 30,000 bats can live in the park and when the temperature is above 40 degrees, they experience extreme heat stress.

It led Mr Hogan to trial an atmospheric cooling system for the flying foxes over the past summer — boosted by funding from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia and the Victorian Government.

WWF-Australia’s threatened species and climate adaptation ecologist, Dr Kita Ashman, said the initiative had been a success.

a man standing with an ipad looking up at rainforest trees
Orrin Hogan says the cooling system is turned on for only a few minutes each hour when the temperature hits 40 degrees.(

Supplied: WWF-Australia

)

Data showed temperatures in the test zone dropped by up to 2 degrees and — most importantly for the researchers — no flying fox deaths were recorded.

Dr Ashman said the bats seemed to enjoy the misty experience.

“They seemed to be enjoying the shower and cool down. They’re enjoying it more, the more they are acclimatising to it.

“We’re also trying to keep the trees and ferns in their area healthy.”

bats flying over an evening sky
Dependent on the time of year, up to 30,000 bats can live in Bendigo’s Rosalind Park.(

Supplied: WWF-Australia

)

The flying foxes — Australia’s largest native bats — have been a point of controversy in Bendigo for many years due to the noise they make and the damage they do to trees.

But Dr Ashman said flying foxes were an important species.

“Australia has a love-hate relationship with flying foxes, but without them many of our forests and woodlands would not be the same,” she said.

The trial will continue until the end of summer next year.

Mr Hogan said he hoped the council would be able to secure funding for the system to become a permanent feature.

“Hopefully there will be opportunities for other councils to build on what we’ve learnt and help to save other endangered species,” he said.

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Could a traffic light system be the green light for international travel?


A consortium of airports and airlines in the UK is asking for a traffic light system to assess passenger health and get the industry travelling again.

They suggest dual-testing schemes could be a viable alternative for international travellers. They say testing may be useful in both reducing imported cases and in monitoring and reducing the risk of introducing a critical mass of a variant of concern.

Michele Granatstein, partner and Head of Aviation at Oxera economics consultancy says The current policy has served us well in terms of reducing risk of infections from international travellers, but authorities should be looking at how to reopen international travel safely:

“It is important to consider how we can reopen travel in a way that minimises the risk to public health and allow us to reopen travel safely, but at the same time minimises disruption and costs to travellers, the economy and the aviation sector more generally.”

Watch Euronews’s full report in the player above.

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NRL reveals bombshell expansion plans, potential conference system


The NRL’s ambitious plans to take over the Australian sporting landscape knows no bounds, with league CEO Andrew Abdo flagging an 18-club competition that could be divided into conferences.

As league officials move quickly toward the introduction of a second Brisbane team in 2023 — an addition the Courier Mail has revealed will be worth $50 million to rugby league — Abdo has indicated it’s just a starting point.

Like the AFL did by quickly following the 2011 debut of its 17th club, the Gold Coast Suns, with the entrance of its 18th franchise the GWS Giants a year later, Abdo is already earmarking a destination to follow Brisbane.

He believes the New Zealand market is ripe for a second NRL club and that quickly returning the number of clubs to an even number will make for a dynamic fixture and the potential introduction of a conference system.

“If we can make the numbers stack up, it (a second Brisbane team) is pretty exciting and then that leads to us having an 18th team in another key market for us over time,” Abdo told the Courier Mail.

“If we were to have an 18th team, we would have to have a good hard look at a second New Zealand team.

“Eighteen teams is a lot more dynamic in terms of how you can configure the draw. It means another rivalry in another key market for us, wherever that might be. It means new fans. It means we could have conferences and pools. These are all good options to explore.”

Abdo and ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys are expected to begin meeting with Brisbane consortia in the coming weeks with the aim of providing clarity on expansion by the middle of the year.

The leading contenders to become the NRL’s 17th team are the Redcliffe Dolphins, who have lodged a Brisbane Dolphins trademark, the Brisbane Jets — a coalition of the Brisbane Bombers and Ipswich Jets — and the Easts Tigers-backed Brisbane Firehawks.

Queensland Origin hero Cameron Munster has already been flagged as a potential signing to be the face of the franchise.

“If another Brisbane team comes in, I won’t say no to going back home,” Munster told News Corp recently.

“I do see myself moving to Queensland after football and if a second Brisbane team comes in, I could go back earlier than expected.

“I wouldn’t say no to that (joining a second Brisbane team) … for sure.”

V’landys said the NRL would not expand to Brisbane if it thought the market would be crowded and existing Queensland teams the Broncos and Gold Coast Titans would be hurt by the move. But the most powerful man in rugby league is confident a new team will only be a positive addition.

“It’s very realistic to say that we’ll have a second team in Brisbane in 2023,” ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys told the Sydney Morning Herald last month. “From what I’ve seen and the presentations that have been given to me, they are well advanced.

“The one thing that I am impressed with is how advanced these bids are. They are not mucking around. They are serious. If we came to a decision in June this year, that would give them a year-and-a-half. It’s plenty of time. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen mid-this year.

“I’m not going to do it if it’s going to hurt the game. It’s got to benefit the game.”

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Advancing Therapies for Central Nervous System Disorders


Date/Time:

Location: Virtual

Sponsored by:

NIMH Division of Extramural Affairs

On April 15, 2021, Beverly Davidson, Ph.D., will be the guest speaker for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Director’s Innovation Speaker Series. Dr. Davidson is the Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Arthur V. Meigs, Chair in Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and director of the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at CHOP. She will provide an overview of recent research approaches for inherited disorders that impact central nervous system (CNS) function during her talk.

Dr. Davidson’s neurobiology laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular bases of neurodegenerative disorders, including lysosomal storage disorders and dominantly inherited diseases such as Huntington’s disease and the spinocerebellar ataxia. Her laboratory employs a range of methods— from single-cell technologies to animal studies—to assess novel therapeutic approaches and the molecular bases for neurodegeneration.

One emphasis of the data presented will be recent developments in Dr. Davidson’s laboratory and others to target biologicals, such as gene therapy vectors, to particular brain regions and to regulate the expression of gene therapies once delivered to the brain.

Background

NIMH established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in the development of scientific initiatives and programs, and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thought. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their primary area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.

Registration

Registration for this free online event is required.

More Information:

NIMH will provide sign language interpreters. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations should contact the Federal Relay at 1-800-877-8339. Submit general questions to the NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series mailbox.

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Turns on overlooked cells in central nervous system — ScienceDaily


Medical cannabis is a subject of much debate. There is still a lot we do not know about cannabis, but researchers from the Department of Neuroscience at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences have made a new discovery that may prove vital to future research into and treatment with medical cannabis.

Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis and in the central nervous system. Using a mouse model, the researchers have demonstrated that a specific synthetic cannabinoid (cannabinoid WIN55,212-2) reduces essential tremor by activating the support cells of the spinal cord and brain, known as astrocytes. Previous research into medical cannabis has focussed on the nerve cells, the so-called neurons.

‘We have focussed on the disease essential tremor. It causes involuntary shaking, which can be extremely inhibitory and seriously reduce the patient’s quality of life. However, the cannabinoid might also have a beneficial effect on sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, for example, which also cause involuntary shaking’, says Associate Professor Jean-François Perrier from the Department of Neuroscience, who has headed the research project.

‘We discovered that an injection with the cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 into the spinal cord turns on the astrocytes in the spinal cord and prompts them to release the substance adenosine, which subsequently reduces nerve activity and thus the undesired shaking’.

Targeted treatment with no problematic side effects

That astrocytes are part of the explanation for the effect of cannabis is a completely new approach to understanding the medical effect of cannabis, and it may help improve the treatment of patients suffering from involuntary shaking.

The spinal cord is responsible for most our movements. Both voluntary and spontaneous movements are triggered when the spinal cord’s motor neurons are activated. The motor neurons connect the spinal cord with the muscles, and each time a motor neuron sends impulses to the muscles, it leads to contraction and thus movement. Involuntary shaking occurs when the motor neurons send out conflicting signals at the same time. And that is why the researchers have focussed on the spinal cord.

‘One might imagine a new approach to medical cannabis for shaking, where you — during the development of cannabis-based medicinal products — target the treatment either at the spinal cord or the astrocytes — or, at best, the astrocytes of the spinal cord’, says Postdoc Eva Carlsen, who did most of the tests during her PhD and postdoc projects.

‘Using this approach will avoid affecting the neurons in the brain responsible for our memory and cognitive abilities, and we would be able to offer patients suffering from involuntary shaking effective treatment without exposing them to any of the most problematic side effects of medical cannabis’.

The next step is to do clinical tests on patients suffering from essential tremor to determine whether the new approach has the same effect on humans.

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AFL overhauls system to deal with racist, sexist abuse


AFL head of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch said the rule 35 review found more consistency was needed across Australia, as well as more education.

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This would include a lot more education at community level when it comes to protecting the wellbeing of those experiencing vilification.

“The AFL’s original racial and religious vilification policy was an Australian first, and perhaps a first in world sport. It sent a very strong message that our game wanted to stand up against racism, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players had protection and rights on the ground,” Hosch said.

“While the rule has worked on the ground, the review shows that we need to continue to ensure that we continue to get better in every aspect of our game and ensure that everyone across our game is aware of the impact of vilification and what they need to do to contribute to an inclusive and respectful environment. We know we need to get better.

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“In recent times, with the rising use of social media in Australia, our code has experienced and continues to experience attacks on players and their families in all manner of ways. We must ensure we have the right professional support for those abused and the ability to put the right accountabilities in place for people who misuse those platforms to vilify our players.”

Club staff, player agents, governing body staff and media will be offered training around how to better deal with – in their chosen fields – problems caused by vilification, and online abuse directed at players.

There will also be a focus on developing and promoting support services for those who are vilified.

The league will also continue prioritise with the E-Safety Commissioner to stop the spread of online abuse, and want to work with social media companies more closely.

“[The AFL will] develop and execute strategic promotion of their community educational tools to enhance awareness of impact of online discrimination, and implementing a training program covering the impact of online abuse,” the AFL said.

“The game would explore opportunities to work formally with key digital platforms to address harmful material posted on-line, while working with key groups within clubs to emphasise their responsibilities.”

The review received 44 submissions including from all 18 clubs and conducted interviews with players, academics, community clubs and media stakeholders as part of the review.

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Sydney news: Calls for better job security after hotel quarantine COVID-19 case, inquiry hears of racism in NSW health system


Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Calls for secure work for quarantine hotel guards

Questions have been raised about why NSW hotel quarantine security guards are being employed across multiple venues following the most recent coronavirus case.

A security guard tested positive to COVID-19 on Saturday night, breaking nearly two months without any new locally acquired cases in the state.

The 47-year-old man has been working weekends at several quarantine hotels — including the Sofitel Wentworth and Mantra hotel Haymarket — both in the CBD.

Labor’s Ryan Park says hotel quarantine security guards must be employed full-time.(

AAP Image: Dean Lewins

)

NSW Labor’s health spokesperson Ryan Park said it was not good practice.

“Hotel security guards in quarantine hotels should be, like all of the workers in there, full-time to at least reduce the risk of transmission to other sites from one of the most high-risk areas in NSW,” he said.

Labor is calling on the State Government to ensure these workers have secure employment so they “don’t have to do other jobs to make ends meet”.

Racism in the public health system

A state parliamentary inquiry has been told racist attitudes within the NSW public health system are stopping Indigenous residents from seeking medical help.

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council says figures show Indigenous patients are five times more likely to discharge themselves early from hospital.

Ariane Dozer from the National Justice Project says First Nations people did not trust the public health service, which they said had provided them with “derogatory” and “degrading” treatment.

“[They are] essentially dismissed and turned away without proper assessment,” she said.

“People’s individual concerns and views of their concerns and their suffering can be ignored.”

‘Unviable’ petroleum exploration licences to end

Coal seam gas pilot well at Narrabri
Some licences for gas exploration won’t be making the cut.(

AAP: Dean Lewins

)

Deputy Premier John Barilaro has confirmed he would discontinue some of the dormant gas licences in north-west NSW.

Multiple energy companies have applied to renew a total of 12 expired petroleum exploration licences, including one covering land from Scone to Coolah.

Mr Barilaro is set to announce a new gas policy for the state in the coming months.

He said a number of the dormant licences had no use, adding they were not “economically or environmentally viable”.

Sydney honours mosque attack victims

Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand commemorated the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack on Saturday.(

AAP Image: Martin Hunter

)

A commemorative service will be held in Campsie, in south-west Sydney, to remember the 51 victims killed in a mass shooting in two New Zealand mosques in 2019.

Services were held in Christchurch over the weekend, to honour the victims and their families.

Last year, an Australian man pleaded guilty to the mass murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bilal Rauf from the Australian National Imams Council said it was important the day was marked, especially after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Delays in vaccine rollout

A Newcastle nursing home operator says just over 60 per cent of residents have given consent to receive the Pfizer vaccine, but she’s worried more delays will put more people off.

Newcastle’s regional vaccine hub begins operating at John Hunter Hospital from today, distributing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to frontline healthcare workers and nursing homes.

Viv Allanson from Maroba Aged Care says she’s yet to receive any details about the aged care rollout and confirmation of when second doses will be given.

We hope people will not lose heart, and decide not to have the vaccine,” she said.

“We hope that this holdup and the debacle that’s going on around does not put more people off, because that will be bad for the country, bad for older people and bad for healthcare workers.”

Cultural traditions live on

A child in a school uniform leans over as she is read to by her grandmother
Matilda Rees says she can’t wait to visit Italy with her nonna Rosa after reading her book.(

ABC News: Maryanne Taouk

)

When 11-year-old Matilda Rees interviewed her Italian nonna for a school project, she had no idea that the story of her life would turn into a 107-page book.

Her grandmother, Rosa Criniti, was more than happy to discuss her childhood in the southern Italian village of Santa Caterina dello Ionio — in the arch of the foot of the Italian Peninsula.

But having left the village as an 11-year-old herself, Nonna Rosa realised there was so much history still unwritten.

So during the COVID-19 lockdown, Rosa, 71, gave herself a project: to write her family history and culture down for generations to come.

Monday’s weather

Possible early shower.

Min.Max.
CBD1523
Parramatta1323

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